SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
19 January 2017
Volume 18 Issue 1
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SETAC Australasia Hobart 2016 Conference Report

Catherine King, SETAC-AU Hobart Conference Organizing Committee

The 2016 SETAC Australasia (SETAC-AU) Conference was held from 4–7 October 2016 in Hobart, Tasmania, for the very first time. The conference theme was “Industry, Science and Environment – Towards a Sustainable Future” and attracted a total of 175 delegates from government, academia and business. While representation was greatest from Australia, a number of delegates made the long journey to our southern state from around the world, including other SETAC Asia/Pacific countries such as New Zealand, Japan and South Korea, as well as delegates from North America, Europe and South America. The conference was held at the Hotel Grand Chancellor on Hobart’s waterfront, a great location in the middle of Hobart’s historical city among numerous heritage buildings and museums.

Three pre-conference workshops covered an array of topics and provided applied skills and experience to delegates. The sold-out ‘R’ workshop was led by Christian Ritz from the University of Copenhagen. It detailed statistical methods in ecotoxicology using R and covered basic programming skills for beginners. A scientific writing workshop, led by Simon Wright, University of Tasmania, Australian Antarctic Division, offered practical strategies for composing a scientific paper clearly and efficiently for publication and citation, and it was particularly popular among postgrad students in the final stages of writing their theses. The Oil Spill Response Monitoring workshop was led by Sharon Hook with CSIRO, Centre for Contaminated Research, and Paul Irving, Australian Marine Safety Authority, and provided practical and up-to-date guidance on appropriate, timely and accurate planning and implementation of spill responses and subsequent monitoring. The information covered in all three workshops remained hot topics of discussion throughout the conference.

The conference had a strong focus on encouraging and creating opportunities for student members, and 30% of all attending delegates were students. Many students participated in the mentor-buddy system, which paired students with established members of our SETAC-AU community. This included a buddy breakfast and an evening event at a local pub, where buddy partners could meet and greet as well as take in addresses by invited speakers. We received positive feedback from these events, and the mentor-buddy system, as always, provided a great chance for students to get to know more members and make new contacts within the society, which will help foster their professional futures.

SETAC AU keynote presentation
Keynote presenter John Gorrie (second on left), EPA Tasmania, Tony Roach Memorial Address by Amy Ringwood (center), The University of Carolina, along with other delegates of the meeting.

The conference was officially opened by Nick Gales, Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, who set the scene for the local flavor of the conference and particularly the special session on “Risk Assessment, Ecotoxicology and Remediation in Extreme Environments.” The conference program offered three concurrent sessions packed with stimulating presentations. Other special sessions included “Perfluorinated and Brominated Chemicals – Fate and Consequences,” “Natural Resource Industries – Impacts and Remediation” and “Toxicity of Pharmaceuticals and Micropollutants.”

We had a great series of thought-provoking plenary presentations by Christian Ritz , University of Copenhagen, Kathy Northcott, Veolia Australia-New Zealand, and Amy Ringwood, The University of North Carolina, who gave this year’s Tony Roach Memorial Address. Keynote presenters included Erica Donner, University of South Australia, Vance Trudeau, University of Ottawa, and John Gorrie, EPA Tasmania. These speakers did an excellent job of highlighting the conference theme, bringing together industry and science and looking towards sustainable applications of their work in the environment.

SETAC AU conference dinner
Conference Chair Ferry to Conference dinner at Peppermint Bay

The highlight of the conference’s social events was the conference dinner, held at the stunning Peppermint Bay and included spectacular ferry rides down the Derwent River from Hobart to the beautiful seaside venue at Woodbridge. The dinner was a great success with delicious local produce, wines and beers, and loads of dancing to the local band Detour, who were blown away by the group’s enthusiasm. Grant Hose, Macquarie University, did a wonderful job as MC (and was superbly dressed for the occasion), ably accompanied for the presentation of awards by conference chair Catherine King and SETAC-AU President Anthony Chariton. These included the conference “funny awards” as well as the more serious SETAC-AU Early-Career Medal, which was presented to Anne Taylor, University of Canberra, and the SETAC-AU Mid-Career Medal, presented to Grant Hose (both of who eventually got the correct trophies).

Amongst fierce competition with truly excellent presentations from all our students, congratulations must go to this year’s student prize winners: Divya Vinod for the Best Student Oral Presentation Award and Brett Knowles for the Best Student Poster Presentation Award. Special mention also goes to Ingrid Errington who won the Inaugural Science Communication Award with her Dr. Seuss inspired oral presentation, said entirely in verse.

This was the first year a SETAC-AU conference actively reached out to the world of social media through a Reddit ‘Ask me Anything (AMA)’ session to engage the public. Enthusiastically organized by student representative Francesca Gissi, this event provided delegates with an opportunity to answer questions from the general public about environmental science topics such as pollution issues, risk assessment and environmental management. The questions presented were challenging, but all were met with knowledgeable and engaging answers by the participants.

SETAC AU Organizing Committee
SETAC-AU Hobart 2016 organizing committee

Finally, I’d really like to take this opportunity to say a most heartfelt thank you to everyone on the organizing committee for their hard work in putting such a successful conference together. Thanks especially to Kate Kiefer, Australian Antarctic Division, who worked tirelessly with the conference team at Leishman Associates and really put in many hours and a big effort to ensure the conference went off without a hitch. Thanks also to our sponsors and supporters including Centre for Aquatic Pollution Identificaiton and Management (CAPIM), National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), Australian Institue of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE), the University of Newcastle and the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), and to our exhibitors Banksia Scientific, Envirolab, EPA Tasmania, The Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI), and TECO Medical Group. And of course thank you to all who attended. It was a big ask having three different SETAC conferences within such a short period of time, and I really thank those who managed to come to support our conference in Hobart.

On behalf of the organizing committee, we hope that everyone who attended found the conference to be a stimulating and enjoyable experience. For those who were visitors to our southern state, we hope you had a great stay in idyllic Hobart and will visit us again soon! 

Author’s contact information: cath.king@aad.gov.au

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